Friday Art: The Tooth Puller by Gerritt van Honthorst (1628)

I have a dental appointment today. Hopefully it’ll just be a cleaning and nothing more serious. I’m really hoping it won’t be some 17th century Dutch dude with no gloves, dirty fingernails and a pair of pliers fresh from the manure-covered lug nuts on his ox wagon ripping out one of my molars with no anesthesia while a bunch of slack-jawed wooden shoe heads gaggle and watch.

But you never know. Maybe I don’t brush and floss enough and need some serious Baroque Dutch dentistry.

van Honthorst was a Dutch Golden Age painter who did fairly well in his lifetime. As a Catholic based in the Catholic-tolerant city of Utrecht within Protestant Holland, he did religious work. And similar to Rubens, he ran a big workshop with lotsa apprentices churning out the merchandise. He got some patronage from royalty like Charles I of England and Christian IV of Denmark and painted some portraits and history and the other stuff royalty liked to plaster their palace walls with.

Continue reading “Friday Art: The Tooth Puller by Gerritt van Honthorst (1628)”
Advertisements

Four Animated Films Off The Beaten Path Worth Your While (with lotsa clips!)

Funny how we usually still think of animation as a cinematic art form delegated mostly to children’s entertainment. All of the animated features coming from Disney/Pixar or Dreamworks or Ghibli are aimed at kids primarily, with material for adults put in around it all to keep parents interested and build cult following appeal. And usually the best of those films are much, much more for adults in the end – the nostalgia for childhood running through all the Toy Story movies, for example, elevates those films beyond the light-hearted kiddie adventure of talking toys questing after some small thing. Up can’t really be appreciated until you actually develop enough of a sense of your own mortality to relate to the characters. Miyazaki’s films are so multilayered with folk tales, mythology and magic that their complexity outdoes that of mainstream grownup entertainment by a bunch.

The films I watched (one of ’em re-watched after many years) over the last few days fall into the same category – two of them seem to be for kids on the surface but once you start watching, you realize they’re not. And the other two are clearly made for a grownup audience, utilizing forms of animation to accentuate the themes of the story.

Ruben Brandt, Collector (2018) comes from Hungarian artist and (impressively) first-time film maker Milorad Krstic. It’s about a psychologist having nightmares of figures from great works of art trying to kill him – so he recruits some of his criminal patients to steal the actual works for him, figuring that the control of ownership will free him from his dreams. Beyond the interesting ideas on why people enjoy art, or need art, the film follows a lot of the conventions of the modern heist film, with action set pieces, car chases, a nicely woven complex plot with some nice surprises (especially a very ambiguous ending, although the doppelganger-from-my-dream-world theory seems to work here), and interesting characters. Each of the thieves has some sort of psychological problem that turns up in their manner of thievery. Brandt exploits this, but also provides them with artistic paths towards their control over their issues, just like the possession of the art will give him control over his own. The visual style adds a lot to it – the character design mixes elements of Cubism (especially Picasso) and Surrealism, with backgrounds and action mixing both 3D and 2D rendering for an effect of giving us an experience much like one of Ruben’s art dreams.

Check out the trailer!

Even if the trailer, I bet you caught little references to all sorts of stuff beyond the art works too… a little homage to Tarantino here, a little bit of Mission: Impossible there… and there are famous works of art everywhere in the background, either in museum scenes or on t-shirts, posters, ice cubes that look like Hitchcock, you name it… the whole thing feels amazingly original. I can’t really say I’ve seen anything quite like the totality of it, and I liked it a lot.

Continue reading “Four Animated Films Off The Beaten Path Worth Your While (with lotsa clips!)”

Belmont Stakes Predictions 2019

I’m still amazed War of Will won the Preakness. I didn’t see it coming. So bear that level of prognosticatin’ genius in mind as I make my picks for the final leg in this year’s Triple Crown races, Saturday’s Belmont Stakes.

My general rule is to throw out any horse that ran in the Preakness when they have to run against some killer route runners that have gotten a lot more rest. I made exceptions when I (along with many others) correctly picked the recent Triple Crown winners American Pharoah and Justify, or when I woulda picked I’ll Have Another if he’d run the Belmont. So when I tell you that #9 War Of Will at the opening line of 2-1 is totally beatable, it’s NOT because I’m still whinin’ over missing the Preakness, I’m simply applying a proven historic standard that horses who have run in the Preakness (AND the Derby in this case) don’t muster the energy against fresh horses of a similar class.

So who is left? Well, the opening line favorite at 9-5, #10 Tacitus is a good bet to win it. I picked him as a possibility in the Derby, and he did decently down the stretch to come in 4th (oh EXCUSE me, 3rd thanks to disqualification, that LAME disqualification…. and I call it lame since I picked that horse to win. You can’t fault me for honesty.).

But checking the numbers, I gotta say that Tacitus is beatable here, and I can point to two strong possibles to do it: The first is another Derby runner who was gaining on all of ’em down the stretch and given another 1/4 mile, the grueling length of the Belmont, had an excellent chance of catching & overtaking Tacitus – #3 Master Fencer, opening at a nice 8-1, though I’d expect that to fall to 4-1 or 9-2 by post time. He’s mostly raced in Japan and not at this distance, but he’s got the speed and class, and it looks like they’re stretching him out a bit by looking at the works. If he and Tacitus run similar to how they did in the Derby, and that was on a sloppy track – this time we’ll get a fast one – Master Fencer should outrun him in the end.

My other possible is #7 Sir Winston. While he’s never really competed at this level, he’s the only horse in the field to achieve the speed figures usually associated with winners of this race, albeit at the G3 level Peter Pan stakes last month. He had veteran Joel Rosario in the saddle for that one, and Rosario is on him again this time. This horse closes… and while he lost earlier in the year to Tacitus, much like Master Fencer in the Derby, he was gaining on him and had a real shot at overtaking him had the distance been longer. And he’s 12-1 on the opening line, maybe 8-1 by post time.

So it all comes down to whether or not Tacitus can maintain the lead down that long distance, or be caught by #3 or #7, in my opinion. I’ll probably wuss out and do a trifecta box of them. This field doesn’t look like it will yield monster pools & payouts on all the exotics, so I’ll probably just limit myself to a “let’s see if I just get it right this time” type bet.

And yeah, I might throw War of Will in there on the exotics, but not to win.

Friday Art: The Meeting of Marie de Médicis and Henri IV at Lyon by Peter Paul Rubens (1622-25)

Museums teem with stuff like this, don’t they? Puffy semi-idealized bodies floating on clouds, gazing at each other lovingly under the warmth of a rainbow, surrounded by mythological figures and cherubs and naked torch bearing babies riding lions drawing a chariot…. Good God, it sounds like a party at Kevin Spacey’s house.

Rubens was a master at this classical baroque style, with prolific production of mythological and allegorical scenes. Rubens catalog is over FOURTEEN HUNDRED pieces. This dude WORKED.

And not only at painting, either – he spoke six languages and got very chummy with a lot of the royalty he worked for and painted. And you know, when people sit for portraits, they chat about stuff. And when royalty and ministers and the like chat about stuff to people they think are just artists, they reveal all sorts of inside-court knowledge and even state secrets, especially if the artist charms it out of them.

Which is exactly what Rubens did. He worked as a spy and diplomat all over Europe while at the same time enjoyed the successful life and reputation of being one of the top artists around.

Continue reading “Friday Art: The Meeting of Marie de Médicis and Henri IV at Lyon by Peter Paul Rubens (1622-25)”

Friday Art: The Pony Express by Frank Tenney Johnson (1924)

So the other day when I had some free time, I dropped into one of my more preferred dumpy thrift stores and came up with a copy of The Searchers: Making of An American Classic, which looks like it’ll be an interesting read for a buck and a half. Granted, most of it is not about the making of the film (one of my favorite old westerns) but about the true history story that inspired the film: the Comanche kidnapping of Cynthia Parker and how she became one of their tribe, becoming a wife and mother, including a son who became a Comanche chieftain before her Uncle found her after years of searching & took her back against her will.

The film takes that set-up, with Natalie Wood kidnapped and Uncle John Wayne searchin’ and searchin’, while giving us John Ford’s version of the settlement of the west and what sorts of bigotries and barbarities cleared the way for what is presumably a more civilized nation.

So I thought I’d offer one of the kind of American western paintings that inspired a lot of Ford’s imagery – in terms of landscape, character and even lighting. Frank Tenney Johnson’s Pony Express gives us a wonderful night time view of the western wilderness, with a set of mail riders departing from a very lonely looking stone outpost, the kind that’d turn up as a safe stopover for Ford’s Stagecoach passengers, or contain some creepy would-be bushwhackers like Futterman’s general store in The Searchers.

Johnson was mostly known for works like this, where he painted cowboys by moonlight. He gives us a wonderful cloudy moonlit sky against the weak competition of the glowing lamps from inside the outpost. I love the reflection of moonlight off the body of the big brown and white horse in the lead, too.

WHADDYA WANT ME TO DO, SPELL IT OUT FOR YA? DRAW YA A PICTURE? DON’T EVER ASK ME ABOUT IT AGAIN!

That’ll be the day.

Weekend Entertainment for May 25-27, 2019

Some books and movies to discuss this Memorial Day weekend, thanks to several days of clouds ‘n’ drizzle that kept me inside most of the time. So while I’m letting a seasoned porterhouse come to room temperature before I sizzle it up for dinner (I posted a wonderful steak recipe & method here), I’ll tell ya about them.

I knocked off a couple of Hollywood gossipy quasi-bios this weekend, starting out with the one I grabbed a week back aong with a nice haul of other volumes at a big annual library sale – George Jacobs’ Mr. S – My Life With Frank Sinatra. Jacobs was Sinatra’s personal valet from the early 1950s to 1968, the PERFECT time to get all the dish ‘n’ dirt about bad marriages, Rat Pack Tales, the prime years of his music (if you ask me), dalliances with the Kennedys, and so forth. Jacobs mostly focuses on the sex lives of everyone he discusses, so this one was a very entertaining page turner. Sinatra would be incredibly loyal, sentimental and generous to people he liked, and could turn on a dime if he felt betrayed, cutting people completely out of his life & taking the grudge to his grave. Jacobs incurred Frank’s wrath by dancing with Mia Farrow at a Hollywood club, setting off gossip and rumors about affairs and such…. all perfectly innocent in Jacobs’ version, but Frank could never ever forgive the other men who he thought had eyes on “his” women – most often Ava Gardner, who he never could get over – but also the mismatched Farrow. Jacobs spins wonderful anecdotes – little wisps of his observations of Sinatra, and none of ’em disappoint. When I picked it up at the library sale and flipped through it to see if it’d be worth reading, every page I landed on contained another story about Frank getting pissed off at something or someone, smashing a phone, kicking a car radio, or threatening to kill himself – and I said “SOLD!” It was certainly a must-read item, an entertaining behind-the-scenes description of truly monstrous behavior towards people and especially lovers by the overly entitled – just perfect to make me feel both morally superior AND entertained.

Continue reading “Weekend Entertainment for May 25-27, 2019”

Friday Art: Sleeping Woman by Oscar Kokoschka (1917)

Most of Kokoschka’s works are considered German Expressionism, an art form I always associate with black and white/ light and shadow, since I’m such a film nerd. Kokoschka’s works are often in brilliant bright colors, although his themes (especially his antiwar paintings) are right in line with the themes usually found in expressionist art. But sometimes he’d paint in other styles, like with some amazingly bright and fiery colored landscapes and city views, and this guy traveled all over after fleeing his native Austria after the Nazis moved in and declared him decadent.

He’d also paint some primitivist works, some of my favorites of his, like this one. They remind me of Matisse in some ways, Picasso in others (this one for its subject matter), and they’re just pleasing on the eye. I like how I’m not sure if she’s sleeping in some public city park, on an island in the middle of the fish pond, with the wall off to one side and some woods beyond the buildings…. or if we’re seeing the wild variations of her flowing dreamscape all around her as she sleeps. Maybe it’s both.

I like how the colors are all blocks and shapes of some sort set against that black background. Whether it’s her dress or the bricks in the wall or the trees, even the lines of flowing water – they’re all separate blocks of some sort. It reminds me of an elementary school art class exercise we did with crayons – we drew some colorful scene on paper, and then completely covered it with black crayon. And then, we used toothpicks or some safe-for-twerps sharp object to scrape away parts of the black crayon to reveal the colors underneath, setting them off against that darkness. Kokoschka gets the same effect here.

I plan to sleep a lot this holiday weekend. Not sure if I’ll dream of scary red fish swimming around me and deer in the distance, tho. I’ll keep you posted.

Powered by WordPress.com.

Up ↑